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Pujols and Respect

There are some athletes who thrive on being underestimated or disregarded or, in probably the most overused word in American sports the last 10 or so years: Disrespected.

There are some. But I don’t believe there are as many as others think. For instance: I don’t think it works for Tiger Woods. I hear people all the time say that Tiger Woods will thrive on people underestimating him, but I don’t so, and more, I don’t think that fits his story at all. Tiger, I think, thrived on being OVER-estimated. I think he thrived on people thinking he was unbeatable, and he was amazing at living up to that impossible expectation. I remember feeling this strongly when he returned for his first tournament back after the car accident and Tabloid Tango, and he was visibly worried about being booed. I don’t think playing the villain is in his repertoire.

The story of Tiger’s descent, like all true stories, is much more complicated than generally acknowledged — it seems to to me that it involves age and injuries and shame and reputation and swing changes and a less reliable putting stroke. But I do think that he is not driven to prove people wrong. I think he is driven to prove people, like his late father Earl Woods, RIGHT.

Another example: John Elway. To me, he also thrived on being overestimated. There was an aura about Elway in the fourth quarter, in a losing situation, an aura that everyone felt, including fans and players and coaches of the other team. Coaches would try goofy things to keep the ball away form Elway in the last two or three minutes. Defensive players who acknowledge that they needed to “do something special,” to prevent what had become known as a “patented Elway comeback.” Elway was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft when he came out, he could run, he was tough, he had one of the strongest arms in the history of the league. Nobody underestimated that guy. They played him as if they fully expected him to take off like a helicopter and chopper untouched into the end zone. Elway fed off that mood.

But, it is true I think, that some great athletes do need that mission of “proving people wrong.” That is perhaps the biggest thing that drives them, keeps them practicing a half hour longer than anyone else, gets them to do one more weightlifting set than they had scheduled, keeps them in the gymnasium shooting jumpers at midnight, after the gym has closed, long after everybody had gone home and gone to bed. You notice how Tom Brady keeps referring back to how he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round? I think that minor slight (and really, it was a minor slight — Brady himself did not expect to go until the third or fourth round after an often unfulfilling college career) inflames him. I think he needs it.

Michael Jordan needed it. That’s why you kept hearing that same overblown story story, again and again and again, about how he was cut from his high school basketball team. That story was never as good as Jordan made it sound. He wasn’t exactly “cut” from the team. He was a sophomore and his high school coach thought it would be best if he played on the junior varsity team, where Jordan was such a star that varsity players would sneak out of the locker room just to watch him play.

But what else could inspire a personality like Jordan’s, a personality that hungered for slanders and libels? He was probably the top recruit in America coming out of high school. He was one of the few freshman to ever start for North Carolina on Day 1, and that year he was the one who took and made the game-winning shot against Georgetown in the national championship game. He became college basketball’s national player of the year, and though he was chosen third overall in the NBA Draft (behind Hakeem Olajuwon and, absurdly, Sam Bowie), he was on the cover of The Sporting News with the subhead: “The Next Dr. J.”

And then, of course, he was an immediate sensation in the NBA, the first Nike superstar, and in time the richest athlete on earth and a six-time NBA champion.

All the while, it seems obvious, he hungered for challenges, for doubts, for cynicism to feed the fire. I think that’s a big part of what the baseball thing was all about. I’m sure there were countless factors in Jordan’s decision to play minor league baseball when he was the best basketball player in the world — his father’s tragic death among them. But I think one of those factors is that Jordan came to point where the challenge of basketball no longer fueled the impossibly high ambition that coursed through him. Like Alexander the Great, he had no more world left to conquer. Baseball served him well on two fronts. One, it brought back the doubters in force — NOBODY thought he could make is as a baseball player, and I really think that’s exactly the kind of world where Michael Jordan feels most comfortable, a world where he (and he alone) believes. He worked very hard to become a good baseball player, and he collected much-needed enemies along the way (like Sports Illustrated), He played baseball better than anyone had any reason to expect considering everything, but more than anything I think it re-energized him, it re-lit the pilot light, and when he came back to basketball there actually WERE doubters, and he savaged them, destroyed them, mocked them, won three more championships and led perhaps the greatest team in the history of the NBA.

I would argue that when you are wired like that, when you need the doubters in your life to push you and drive you and make you feel alive, it’s hard to find peace. Ali kept coming back. Favre kept coming back. Mark Spitz, long after he won seven gold medials, jumped back in the pool. Pete Rose stalked the all-time hit record. Jim Brown talked often about coming back, and he challenged Franco Harris to a race that sullied him. And, of course, Jordan came back again to play for Washington, and this time the doubters had the upper hand. Jordan was too old to be great. Still, the hunger does not fade when the body does. At his Hall of Fame induction speech, Jordan talked about coming back again at 50. There was laughter. People thought it was a joke. Jordan said: “Don’t laugh.”

Of all the athletes I’ve ever written about extensively, I’d say that no one has needed the doubts and slights and slaps more than Albert Pujols. It could be pure coincidence that Pujols had the most productive offensive day in World Series history just two days after he was ripped in the press for committing an error that cost his team a World Series game and, even more, for not sticking around to explain himself to the press. It could be a coincidence … but I sort of doubt it. There are people who can channel their rage in amazing ways. Pujols, I think is one of those people.

Unlike Jordan and Tiger, Albert Pujols really was sold short for most of his life. He had come to the Kansas City from the Dominican Republic when he was still a kid, and he hit baseballs so hard and had such an adult-looking body that it was assumed that he had lied about his age. This led to many side effects. He was a phenomenal high school hitter, but he was not even selected first team All-Metro by The Kansas City Star — this was in part because of his shaky defense as a shortstop, but there was also some real animosity toward him by other high school coaches because of the supposed age factor. He was not drafted out of high school, and again the retroactive reasoning is that he did not seem to have a natural defensive position but it seems more likely that the age rumors had sunk him. He was legendary his one year at Maple Woods Community College — it is believed his done strike out a single time, and he crushed monstrous home runs. The St. Louis Cardinals, famously, drafted him, but not until the 13th round.

And, though I’m sure Pujols would have liked for it all to work differently, I feel just as certain that this pain is a big part of what formed him. He worked so hard, at least in part, to prove people wrong. He drove himself to absurd extremes, both physically and mentally. A batting cage session with Albert Pujols, both then and now, is something resembling a holy experience, with every pitch being a life challenge, with every swing a heartfelt prayer. The intensity of Albert Pujols at work seems to just burn off him. What can drive a man to work that hard? To care that much? To push that far? That’s the story biographers and writers search for, the story I’m searching for as I write my book about Joe Paterno, and it isn’t easy to find, and you can never be sure you actually DID find it. In Pujols’s case, I do think that a big part of his success comes from that heartfelt desire to crush every person who ever doubted him, who ever questioned his talent, who ever determined that he wasn’t good enough.

Pujols showed up at his first spring training after a spectacular single season in the minor leagues. And Cardinals manager Tony La Russa couldn’t take his eyes off Pujols. This made sense because Albert already was pretty close to a finished product as a hitter. But La Russa (like Paterno, I think) sees his sport more as art than science, more as something to be interpreted than figured out. And I believe him when he told me that he was drawn not to Pujols bat or his talent but to his hunger, his fierce determination, his drive to be great. Even just a few days into that training camp, La Russa was already telling people how he had never seen a player quite like Albert Pujols. He wanted Pujols on his team immediately. An injury allowed La Russa to bring Pujols back to St. Louis. And Pujols hit .329/.403/.610 his rookie season — one of the great rookie seasons in baseball history.

Once a player driven by doubters has great success, he or she has to figure out new ways to reenergize. After all, nobody has really doubted Albert Pujols the last 10 years. But Pujols has never had any problem finding critics and doubters — he sees them everywhere. When he left after World Series Game 2 without talking to the media, that was not out of character. He does not like the media. He talks sparingly after games, and almost always with reluctance. A couple of years ago, I got to spend some time with Albert for a Sports Illustrated story, and he let some of his emotions loose. He feels like some in the media have tried to make him look bad. He feels like some in the media want him to fail. I did tell him that there have been many wonderful stories written about him, as both a player and a man, and he acknowledged that. But I was missing the point. The point is that Albert Pujols needs to be the best baseball player in the world. He needs that in ways that would be impossible for you or me or anybody else to understand. And having a cynical media out to get him serves that greater purpose. Maybe in those moments when he doesn’t want to take extra batting practice, when he wants to let his mind wander a little bit, when he wants to pull back just a touch, he can say to himself: “Yeah, that’s just what the media wants me to do.”

I think Albert Pujols is a good person. I think he cares about people, I think the charity work he does is very much from the heart, I think faith drives his life. But I also think Albert Pujols has to be a great baseball player; that cuts deep into who he is as a man. And to be a great baseball player, he needs doubts to drive him. So he is not always a NICE person. He is rarely an open person. I think he needs to feel close to the pain, needs to remember that nobody in the game wanted him, nobody drafted him, nobody believed in him. He needs to feel that if he rests for a minute, the media will bury him. I think he needs that the way fire needs oxygen.

Obviously, Saturday night’s remarkable World Series performance did not happen just because Albert Pujols was ticked off at the media for skewering him and wanted to make a point. Nobody’s that good. Saturday night happened in part because Albert Pujols is one of the greatest hitters who ever lived*, because it was a good night for hitting, because if you groove pitches over the middle of the plate Albert Pujols knows how to hit them a long way.

*Saturday, in the roar of Pujols’ remarkable performance, my colleague Jon Heyman listed off his greatest hitters of all time. They were: (1) Babe Ruth; (2) Ted Williams; (3) Barry Bonds; (4) Lou Gehrig; (5) Albert Pujols. And Jon said Pujols is the greatest right-handed hitter of all time. I think all of that is premature — Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, among others, merit respect — and I think that once again Stan Musial, among others, is too easy to overlook. But the larger point is the larger point. Pujols already is in the discussion.

But do I think Albert Pujols WANTED to prove a point? You bet I do. All of us are driven by countless motivations, many of them unknown even to ourselves. Some of us are trying to live up to our parents expectations. Some of us are trying to win over the girl or boy who spurned us years ago. Some of us want to be rich, to be famous, to be loved, to be admired, on and and on and on and on and all combinations in between. Whatever else drives Albert Pujols, I think he wants to prove a point to the doubters out there, even last one of them, real and imagined.

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35 Responses to Pujols and Respect

  1. Renan says:

    Watching the 9th inning yesterday, when the game was long since well decided, solely for the sake of seeing Pujlos hit, was pretty much all I needed to realize that even if he’s not the best player ever, he’s definitely the most watchable in my 30 years. And when Napoli just missed that foul pop he hit into the stands, what was coming next seemed to be a fait accompli

  2. Marco says:

    I don’t like to think that athletes are able to elevate their games “to prove the doubters” wrong, because then I have to accept that they aren’t giving full effort the rest of the time.

    I like to think that the desire to “prove the doubters wrong” drives them to practice longer and prepare better.

  3. tim.hubin says:

    This post begs the question: what drives you, Joe?

  4. Clashfan says:

    @Marco, I don’t know: haven’t we all had days at work where we phone it in a little? We don’t bring our A game every single day; I think it’s a little much to expect even professional athletes to be at their peak every single day.

  5. Jason Toon says:

    Everybody complains about the media until a player on an opposing sports team doesn’t play nice with the media – then, suddenly, to be rude the media is history’s greatest crime.

    I’ve never heard anybody, anywhere, say Pujols isn’t “nice” to anyone but reporters. The guy leads an exemplary personal life along with being one of the greatest hitters ever. But these days, when the vast majority of sports blabber is about crap like who did or didn’t respect whom, or who has the most “class”, or whatever, that’s evidently not enough.

    (Not directed at you, Joe – directed at the Brewers and Cubs and Reds and Astros fans who pretend like their grudge against Pujols is rooted in anything OTHER than jealousy.)

  6. Was Ted Williams like this in his psychology?

    Albert is just at the point of passing Jimmie Foxx’s career as a right-handed hitter. Foxx put up big numbers — but then something, or a combinations of somethings, suddenly ended his production.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Weird thought on Pujols: his error in game 2 cost the team either 0.253 or 0.260 WPA (fangraphs or baseball-reference, respectively). His entire performance in game 3 was worth only 0.218 or 0.211 wpa. The homers by themselves were only worth 0.171 or 0.152 wpa.

    Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? When it matters, he costs his team the game. When it doesn’t, he acts like it’s the homerun derby. I’d say he still has some proving to do. (Tho this Rangers fan hopes he doesn’t prove anything.)

  8. Jason Toon says:

    “When it matters, he costs his team the game. When it doesn’t, he acts like it’s the homerun derby.”

    “Weird thought”, indeed. By the WPA reckoning, Pujols’ game 3 performance would have been better if the Cardinals’ pitchers had let up 15 runs. Of course, we all know that not even Albert Pujols has any control over the context he plays in, which is WPA is useless for analyzing individual performances.

    “I’d say he still has some proving to do.”

    Maybe you should engrave that on his plaque at Cooperstown.

  9. Jason Toon says:

    I also love the idea of “acting like it’s the homerun derby”, as if he could hit home runs any time he wants, he just chooses not to sometimes.

  10. Ed says:

    This has nothing to do with Pujols, but since Joe didn’t post a link to his recent “emergency” Poscast on this blog, I want to comment here.

    I understand why you chose Roy Williams as symbolic of coaches leaving schools, since he was at Kansas for a long time and you were living and writing in Kansas City. But he’s really one of the worst possible examples. I’m sure you know all of this, but you didn’t mention it even in passing on the Poscast — Roy Williams was born in North Carolina, he grew up in North Carolina, he went to UNC and played JV basketball there, and then he coached there under Dean Smith before becoming the head coach at Kansas. He wouldn’t have left Kansas for any school other than North Carolina, and going to North Carolina actually was going home for him.

    I understand that it was heartbreaking for Kansas fans that he left, especially after turning down North Carolina once — but you should really expect someone to go back home to their alma mater when they have the opportunity. He didn’t leave because of money, because he could have better teams/recruit better players at UNC, etc. He just went back home.

  11. cd1515 says:

    on what planet was Jordan ever “a good baseball player”?

  12. Jeremy says:

    From the article: “But do I think Albert Pujols WANTED to prove a point? You bet I do.”

    My point: If I were Pujols, and I had that insatiable drive to prove people wrong and I thought people were questioning my legacy because of Game 2, I wouldn’t be satisfied. I wouldn’t view it as “Wow, it’s me and Reggie and the Babe.” I’d view it as “Why didn’t I hit any of those when it was 1-0 and we could have used it? Or in Game 2 when we really could have used it?”

    And, according to Joe’s analysis of Pujols’s personality, “He still has some proving to do” might be a very pithy, if not quite sentimental, engraving on his tombstone, much less his HOF plaque.

    But really, WPA is a useless stat? Take away Pujols’s runs and RBI, and the Cardinals win 9-7. They were already winning 8-6 when he hit his first. He put the nails in the coffin, but he didn’t kill the Rangers. Not like he killed the Cardinals in Game 2. WPA helps us talk about how the Game 2 error compares to the Game 3 homers.

  13. pioneer2007 says:

    This is a dumb argument. Pujols has come up huge for the Cardinals throughout the playoffs, and not just this season. To suggest he didn’t hit his 1st of 3 World Series home runs right at the right moment is a silly argument. When is the right time to hit a home run? How about anytime during this thing called “the World Series”? I’ve followed baseball for a while now, and I’d say that’s a pretty good time to pick.

    Pujols hit 3 home runs in a World Series game. How much would, say, A-Rod have liked to do that? Do you think he would have cared about the score at the time he did it?

  14. In a game where the Rangers scored 6 runs in 2 innings, those dingers were big. That 3-R shot was HUGE…it made it 11-6 and really, really hurt Ogando (the two games before, he was hurt more by little flares, the Pujols bomb was an absolute shot). Pujols, knowing him, will be out to prove a point tomorrow after tonight’s struggles.

  15. KHAZAD says:

    @David in Toledo- Foxx developed a heavy drinking problem and bad knees, as well as the after affects of a serious beaning. The Tom Hanks character in “A league of their own” was loosely based on Foxx, who managed in the league.

  16. NMark W says:

    Did not Buck like the sound of he ball changing direction upon meeting the strong swing of Albert’s?

  17. I remember that heavily publicized race between Jim Brown and Franco Harris. I also remember Brown posing on the cover of SI in full pads and uniform at 47, talking about a comeback. The thing that comes to mind the clearest though, is Brown pulling up lame about 15 feet after the starting gun and grabbing his hammy.

    Maybe instead of making an NBA comeback at 50, Jordan should challenge Dominique to a shuttle run for charity, or on second thought, maybe just a game of horse.

  18. @cd1515 – Jordan, as a 31-year-old who hadn’t played baseball since high school, hit over .200 in AA ball. That’s an impressive achievement, and really speaks to his overall athleticism. Anyone who can hold his own in the high minors is a very good baseball player.

  19. Joe:

    Great stuff as always. One comment re the draft: Pujols wasn’t drafted out of HS because he was never eligible. He went to Maple Woods in the spring of what would have been his senior year of HS. He actually made Baseball America’s preseason list of Top 100 HS Prospects before he graduated early.

    –Jim Callis

  20. Jeremy says:

    @pioneer2007 – I’m not sure what argument you’re talking about. If somebody’s arguing that Pujols is not hall-worthy, that would probably be a dumb argument. If somebody’s arguing that Pujols didn’t have a great Game 3, that’s also probably a dumb argument.

    And if somebody’s arguing that all World Series homers are equal, that’s probably a dumb argument. If somebody’s arguing that Pujols’s third home run in Game 3 (the one that made it 16-7) was just as important and valuable as Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 home run or Carlton Fisk’s 1975 home run or Kirk Gibson’s 1988 home run or Joe Carter’s 1993 home run . . . well, I’ll listen, but it’s a tough sell.

    No, Pujols can’t control his context. But either you take the context (3 homers in the context of 1 World Series game) or you don’t (a ball he hit really far).

    @Slado – If by “HUGE” you mean “went really far,” I’m with you. If by “HUGE” you mean “changed the outcome of the game in a startlingly significant way,” I’m not with you. Sure, that play has more WPA (+.150) than any other single play in the game, but (and maybe I’m splitting hairs), it wasn’t “HUGE” like Mazeroski’s (+.370) or Fisk’s (+.360) or Gibson’s (+.870) or Carter’s (+.660).

    If we use “HUGE” for coffin-nails homers, what do we use for walk-offs? “HUUUUGE”?

    Pujols had a great game, a historic game, a Rutho-Jacksonian game. But I don’t think it made up for his Bucknerian game two days earlier.

  21. JJS KCK says:

    The athletes who are compelled to prove naysayers wrong tend to work obsessively to do so. They tend to be hypercompetitive.

    They also tend to be miserable people who never find satisfaction in their lives. I don’t envy them at all.

  22. Jeremy, not only is your point kind of silly, but your math is horrible.

    Pujols’ ERROR did not cost the team .253. The entire play changed the WE by that amount. The play included a single that advanced the runner to third, independent of the error. The error only moved Andrus from 2nd to 3rd.

  23. Sorry, Andrus from 1st to 2nd.

  24. pgaskill says:

    @David in Toledo,

    Ted Williams was evidently *just* like this. As he would warm up in the batting cage, he’d chant, over and over and over, “I’m Ted F**cking Williams! I’m the best f**cking hitter who ever lived!” as his mantra.

    At least that’s what I’ve read more than once.

  25. Grulg says:

    Jimmie Foxx-drank like a fish, while as a player from all reports. This finished him around 33 or so, which wasn’t such a rare thing for hitters back then. It’s a pity as he was on-track to clear 600-700 with a longer run.

  26. I think you’re underestimating that dinger. The Rangers had shown the ability to get runs in a hurry…that homer was big in the sense that it gave St. Louis a 5-run lead, and I do think the distance shocked the Rangers.

    One error–an error that wasn’t completely his fault, it should be noted–doesn’t take away from that. No, I don’t think his Game 3 homer was as big as Maz’s, Carter’s, or Fisk’s (which, for my money, is the most overrated homer of all-time. Ended a great game, but the Reds won the Series the next day).

  27. nightflyblog says:

    No, I don’t think his Game 3 homer was as big as Maz’s, Carter’s, or Fisk’s (which, for my money, is the most overrated homer of all-time. Ended a great game, but the Reds won the Series the next day).

    I think hyperbole is the most overrated anything in the history of everything!

    Well, not to pick on you too much, because that’s not fair. To dial it back just a skootch, maybe Fisk’s homer is somewhat overrated, but that’s debatable. He couldn’t know the ultimate outcome of the Series any more than Joe Morgan did when he flared his Game Seven winner into the outfield. And if Yaz wasn’t off a quarter-inch on that fastball, if he was a touch earlier to contact, it’s extra innings again. That wouldn’t make Morgan’s hit “the most overrated single of all time.”

    If, if, if… Any of these games can turn on so many moments. It’s great to have the advanced metrics and such, but ultimately a team scores more runs than the other. Is it fair that Fisk’s jack is remembered more than Bernie Carbo’s 3-run pinch-hit homer to tie the game? Maybe not – but Fisk’s shot won the game, it was a unique television moment that helped change how all sports were covered (and thus how fans watch and think). That’s a high-impact event. It’s safer to say that a particular moment was really big and helped the team win when it otherwise might have lost, than to just toss out mosts or nevers like so many candy corn at Halloween. Some things just aren’t possible to sort into an indisputable heirarchy.

  28. It was always funny to me to see how Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick motivated Lawrence Taylor.

    Up front, I think it’s safe to say that Lawrence Taylor was the most “respected” (i.e. FEARED) player in the NFL, in his prime. Offensive coordinators changed their plans completely, solely for fear of LT. On every play, quarterbacks looked around frantically, asking “Where’s LT” or “Who’s got LT?”

    And yet, every Sunday, Parcells and Belichick would be in Taylor’s face, telling him, “They don’t respect you! They think you’re nothing!” That was absolutely PREPOSTEROUS, of course! But somehow, it worked! No matter how much acclaim he received, no matter how much deference opposing teams an coaches gave him, LT fed off the patently false idea that he was disrespected!

  29. The fact that it’s a great homer notwithstanding, way too many people remember that as the mitigating factor of the 1975 World Series, forgetting that the Machine actually won it all the next day.

  30. Dinky says:

    First, the typos:

    “He had come to the Kansas City from” either needs a team name after “City” or no “the”.

    “He was legendary his one year at Maple Woods Community College — it is believed his done strike out a single time” probably “his done” should be “he didn’t” but I’m not 100% sure of your intent.

    “Whatever else drives Albert Pujols, I think he wants to prove a point to the doubters out there, even last one of them, real and imagined.” Even s/b every (last one of them).

    Great article. My top five hitters would be Williams, Ruth, Pujols, Musial, Bonds, although I’m not sure how fair it is to give some players credit for time lost to wars, and not give Gehrig credit for time lost to incurable disease, or not demote Bonds more for steroid use. I’d pick Ruth ahead of Williams as a player, but not as a pure hitter, and a chunk of that is Williams never had Gehrig protecting him, and another chunk is “The Science of Hitting”.

    If my proofing is not needed or appreciated, send me an email and I’ll stop. I only do it to try and make my favorite sportswriter look better.

    BTW, tried to listen to the emergency poscast on and it would not play, at least not in Firefox. I’ll have to try again sometime in an FF IE Window, or in IE. Finding your blog makes the absence Fire Joe Morgan a lot more tolerable.

  31. People (self-righteous control freaks) who feel compelled to point out typos in blogs (informal discussions) need to get a life. Dinky, get a life.

  32. davidinnyc says:

    @Marco —

    I would have to disagree. Back in Jordan’s days with the Bulls, nothing excited me as much as getting ready to watch a Chicago-NY game after someone on the Knicks (usually John Starks, Patrick Ewing, or Jeff Van Grumpy) made some (perceived by Jordan as disrespectful) comment before the game. It pretty much guaranteed that MJ would go off for at least 40 points that night.

    @pgaskill —

    Actually, they way I have heard and read it, Mr. Williams usually referred to himself as “Teddy Fucking Ballgame”, and would even pretend-announce his at-bats as he came over from the on-deck circle, as in “Bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, tie game. Teddy Fucking Ballgame is about to win the game!”

    As Muhammad Ali used to say, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”

  33. yoyodyne says:

    MJ was highly recruited and desired out of HS – as any McD’s-AA would be, but it’s not even close who the top college prospect in that class was — Patrick Ewing.

    Choosing Bowie ahead of MJ was never ‘absurd’ – he was a true 6’11” guy who could shoot, run the floor, pass like a guard, dribble, and of course rebound/score underneath. Injuries wrecked his career, he was already a double/double guy essentially as a rookie before the further knee injuries. Most people don’t know this but once he got healthy he played until 1995, so 12 years in the NBA for a ‘bust.’

    Of course, the reason everyone knows they passed on MJ is that they already had a Dream Teamer/HoF at the SG spot.

    People who think the Bowie pick as the ‘worst ever’ have no idea what they are talking about and never saw him play in college. They just say that to sell papers and brownnose MJ. Bowie was a terrific, terrific NBA prospect just like MJ was. MJ just turned out to be healthier, and, the best of his generation.

    And this is coming from a Tar Heel.

    Go Heels!

  34. doodles says:

    Wow Joe — a lot of your commenters have managed to take a soul-crushing, antiseptic view of sports. Please don’t follow their lead, regardless of what the stats tell you.

    I’m only 34, but I kinda like the ol’ “magic” days. You know…sports are fun and all.

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